Florida among states with most monkeypox cases, health officials say

Health officials are closely monitoring the monkeypox outbreak. Florida is among the states with the most cases as the Florida Department of Health works to get the vaccine to the people who need it most.

Experts said the virus itself is now spreading faster than the details and data about the most recent cases. It's making it difficult for doctors to keep up. 

Dr. Thomas Unnasch, a distinguished professor with USF's College of Public Health, said whether the vaccine will be able to slow the spread fast enough will come down to how the population responds.

Monkeypox is now being called a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization with 19,000 cases including five deaths being reported across 76 countries, according to the CDC.

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"The disease starts, like many other viruses do, in terms of its symptoms with fever, malaise, fatigue," Dr. Unnasch said. "But then usually what can happen is you'll develop some pustules on your skin, little pimples that will develop usually in the area where the contact has occurred."

To transmit, the disease requires very close skin-to-skin contact between an infected person and non-infected person. The highest at risk population are men who have sex with men and men with multiple partners. Right now, the CDC is reporting about 3,500 cases in the U.S. 

As of Tuesday, Florida reported 310 monkeypox cases across 17 counties with the most infections in South Florida.

"The vaccination actually works. If you've been exposed within about four or five days, if you get vaccinated after exposure, it'll still protect you when you won't develop an infection without, you know, either monkeypox or smallpox," Dr. Unnasch said. "So we're able to do that here. You know, we should be able to get this thing under control with a relatively small number of doses that are available."

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According to HHS, at least 36,000 doses of the vaccine have been shipped to Florida, but as of right now, there's no data on how many people have been inoculated. As Dr. Unnasch explained, it could be awhile before the vaccine has an impact on the spread.

"I think we need to be patient, and I think once again, we need to fall back on sort of standard public health methods until the vaccine comes out," Dr. Unnasch said. "I don't think we can really fault anybody for the fact that there's not large numbers of the vaccine that are out there."